Top Movies: 14 Days of Romance Day 10, Silent Movies

Sure the acting is dramatic, the facial expressions over the top, but there’s something so romantic about silent films. The way the men pulled their women close, the strength of their kisses and, of course, the music. Who needs words when you’ve got love?

There was romance in so many of the classic silent films, from all the silver screen stars: Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish and Mr. Romantic himself, Rudolph Valentino.

For our Valentine’s Day movie countdown, 14 Days of Romance, we at Disc Dish chose the three films we feel are the Most Romantic Silent Movies. Any we missed?

The Sheik movie scene3. The Sheik

Rudolph Valentino stars as the titular Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan in the 1921 romantic adventure film that would define his career and legacy. Valentino’s Arab lover is particularly impassioned and fiery in the film’s first half, when he snatches lively British playgirl Diana (Agnes Ayres) and attempts to force himself upon her in his sand-swept desert hideaway (the most impressively furnished tent we’ve ever seen). But it’s during the later scenes when Diana is kidnapped by roving Bedouins and the Sheik comes to her rescue that we see the love that has grown between the British lady and the bad boy from the desert. The longing gazes Valentino and Ayes share are pure romance.

Available on DVD from Image Entertainment

Broken Blossoms movie scene2. Broken Blossoms

There’s a reason Lillian Gish (Night of the Hunter) is revered as “The First Lady of the Silent Screen,” and Broken Blossoms is one of them. A 1919 romantic tragedy from director D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation) starring his favorite leading lady (she appeared in dozens of his shorts and features), the film eloquently spins the tale of the fragile love that grows between teenage London waif Lucy (Gish) and a gentle, opium addicted Chinese man (the far-from-Chinese Richard Barthelmess, but look what year it was). That’s not terribly romantic, you might say, but it is the “Yellow Man” (as he’s referred to in the film) who’s there to help the constant physical abuse she receives from her brutish boxer father (Donald Crisp). Lucy and the Yellow Man’s unconsummated but strangely exotic love is, as the title cards inform us, a “pure and holy thing,” which makes the inevitably tragic conclusion of the tale even more heartbreaking.

Available on DVD from Kino Video

City Lights movie scene1. City Lights

Charlie Chaplin (Modern Times) is the director, writer, producer, editor, composer and star of 1931’s City Lights,  the most romantic silent film ever made, a lyrical masterpiece that defines the power of cinematic artistry.  A story of the love — the caring — that blossoms between Chaplin’s beloved Tramp character and a blind girl (Virginia Cherrill) who sells flowers on the bustling city sidewalks, City Lights packs a seriously emotional punch beneath it’s pleasant simplicity, and that it’s all communicated through the pantomime silent-film style of the era (which was being pushed aside for “talkies” at this point) makes it all the more special. The Tramp falls hard for the flower girl after their first meeting, and he dedicates his life (which goes through the ringer in a collection of charming slapstick sequences) to helping her in any way he can, ultimately raising enough money to pay for an operation that could restore her sight. City Lights’ now famous ending of the Tramp encountering the girl many months after the successful operation — “Yes, I can see now” — is one for the ages.

Available on DVD from Warner Home Video in various collections

Check out all our 14 Days of Romance.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.